Monday, 29 September 2014

Motivate Monday

Friday, 26 September 2014

Letters From America: The State Fair

Hello Everyone, 

This weekend, I went to the State Fair. It was like every childhood dream put together. There was a petting zoo, roller coasters, native-american dancing, spanish dancing, and as much food as you could eat. I went on the second to last day, and it was mobbed. There was also a best in show for pretty much everything, it was like the Great American Bake-Off! the only problem was that they put their cakes, biscuits, breads etc. in display cabinets, which I think is a waste of really good cake. However, I still got to try all sorts of wonderful food, including alligator! It tasted like steak, I thought. I also got really hung up on becoming like Chandler and Joey and buying a chick and a duck for my room (although I wasn't able to get any good pictures of that). Here are a few of the best bits. 


Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Letters From America: Schools in America

Hello Everyone,

I thought I would do a comparison post today about the differences between American and Scottish universities. I’ve been in the USA long enough to get to grips with the teaching styles and what is assessed compared to my experiences last year. And I’ve noticed there are quite a few differences.

Reading. In both Scotland and USA universities there is reading to be done. However, there is much more essential reading in the USA. It is difficult to keep up sometimes, especially when you have papers due and tests to study for (I will talk about these later on). And it isn’t just weekly reading, it is reading for each lesson, and the readings are discussed, so if you don’t do the reading you are a bit stuck. But if you get the bulk of it done at the beginning of the week, it frees up your time to do other stuff.

Homework. In Scotland, I haven’t had official homework since my fifth year in high school (in sixth year it was optional, or just essay practice). So after two years of no homework, I am dealing with it all over again, all the while feeling a little like a school-girl again complaining about the amount of homework she has to do. However, they are normally straightforward tasks that we have covered in class so do not stretch me too much. The level of thought processes and analysis expected is a lower level than in Aberdeen, which also helps.

Exams. I have had plenty of experiences of these, although I have never had an exam that is worth less than 50% of my overall grade. Coursework either made up the entirety of your grade, or helped prop up your exam result, to give it a boost if it wasn’t the best. So finding out that you have a final exam worth only 30% of your grade is a pretty cool. Takes a little pressure off for finals (apart from the one exam that is worth 100%). Another difference is that I do not have to write one proper essay in an exam. NO ESSAYS! Instead the exams are made up of multiple choice questions and long and short answers.

Lectures. Every professor will run their course and classes differently. Some have a traditional lecturing style, others will get you to engage in discussion with the entire class, in small groups, or do thinking tasks in your notebook. There are no regulations to them, some classes are not even put online for students to view and ask questions on. Another difference from Scottish schools is that you have to go to lectures.  YES YOU SCOTTISH STUDENTS, YOU HAVE TO GO TO CLASS. If you do not attend three or more classes, you are immediately dropped from the class. They take attendance, so beware those of you who hate 9am lectures. Get out of bed and be glad you are not attending an American university. 

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Letters From America: Red Rally

Hello Everyone,

I have done the quintessential American thing, and attended a pep rally. You know, like they have in Grease, but with a little less John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. It had everything, cheerleaders, marching band, footballers, a couch’s motivational speech, and what pep rally would be complete without the famous school mascots, Lobo Louie and Lobo Lucy. There was also a giant version of our rival’s mascot made entirely from napkins with the sole purpose of being burned. A bit like an American version of Bonfire Night, although without the fireworks to go along with it. But with cheerleaders. So it all evens out somewhere. All I did was take pictures of the Aggie as it burned, and I really want to share some of the best ones with you.

The Huge Aggie, ready to be burned. 
And it's burning!!!

Lobo Louie and the New Mexico Flag
Such a cute bow!
How close I was!
And it continues to burn!
Look how happy that girl at the top is!
Almost burned out now. 

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Letters From America: Dating

Hello Everyone,

I am not a dating expert by a long shot. I am barely treading the water to be honest. And this is just in the UK. The whole thing flummoxes. There a certain rules and I don’t seem to know what they are. Or there are no rules. I don’t know. Either way you look at it, I’m not great at it.

If I do say so myself, I am good at being single. I love nights out and having coffee with my mates. I don’t have to answer to anyone, and I should be making the most of it. I can do what I want when I want, and don’t have to worry about the consequences to one specific person, other than myself. I realise that this may also be describing what it is like to be young, so I really cannot complain as I am both young and single. Sounds like a pretty good deal, yeah? I do not have to deal with relationship drama myself. My world is not turned upside down, and lit on fire. Sounding a little less great now? I know love is a little different from the way  it is portrayed in books and movies, but it still changes your own personal world. You have someone who will support you and comfort you in times of trouble, and you to them. Sounds pretty good to me.  I haven’t ever been in one, but I would like to think that I would be pretty good in a long term relationship (who wouldn’t). I know everyone thinks this, but I genuinely think this. I can do date nights, cooking romantic meals, complaining to them about work or whatever, days spent in watching movies or TV show marathons.

There is one little thing standing between me and this situation: dating. As I said, I’m not very good at it. And at the moment I am in another country. The rules change slightly, and only some basic standards are the same. It’s a bit like being left in another country, no idea where you are, with the wrong guidebook. People say that love is universal, but those people clearly haven’t had too much trouble in the dating field. There may be no rules to dating, it is supposed to come naturally, but there are some social conventions that differ from country to country. Even countries as close as the UK and USA. For instance, if you go on a date to a restaurant or the cinema, who pays? I’ve been brought up to pay my own way, and not depend on someone else. So how does that work? Do you go dutch? Or do you still let the man pay, even if he’s in the same financial state that you are (a.k.a student, with little or no money to spare)? Can anyone enlighten me?

Another one is how to act, or flirt, when you first meet. As a Brit, human contact is a bit foreign to me (even getting used to meeting someone for the first time and being hugged by them is something I am still getting used to). So the British idea of flirting is slightly different, if you make some effort to stand close to them, touch their arm or hand frequently, was pretty standard flirting. In the USA, this is just normal behaviour, so how do you deal with it? I have no idea again.

Sorry about this slightly odd post. I was chatting about it with one of my friends, and I came away with a lot of thoughts. So I shared them with you.  

Friday, 19 September 2014

Five on Friday

Hello Everyone,

Today is Friday, and I've decided to link back up with the fab girls AprilDarciChristina and Natasha, for Five on Friday. This week I am going to tell you all about my favourite Netflix shows at the moment.

  1. Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I was constantly being told that I had to watch it, and I have finally gotten round to it. Safe to say, I am a convert. I love it, and I love that Alyson Hannigan is so young in it. 
  2. Miranda. There's not much more to say really. She's hilariously British. Actually no, she's just hilarious. 
  3. Charmed. It is such an old TV show, and the special effects are so bad, but there is a nostalgic feeling to it. I quite like watching TV shows with a little knowledge about what is going to happen in the later series. But not knowing exactly what will happen before that. It's weird, but I like it. 
  4. House. Who doesn't love the sarcastic, bitter but brilliant doctor? Hugh Laurie plays it just brilliantly. My favourite bit is when he is explaining to Cameron why he hired her. Because she is pretty. Anyone else get it? If you don't, go watch House again. I can't explain it properly. 
  5. Jonathon Creek. If you're outside the UK, you will have no idea what I am talking about. If you are in the UK, you still might not know what I am talking about. But for anyone who loves a juicy 'locked door murder' combined with an unwilling socially awkward detective, then this is the perfect show for you. The banter between Jonathon Creek (Alan Davies) and Maddie Magellan (Caroline Quentin) is superb and gives a lighter side to what can be a pretty gory show. 

Monday, 15 September 2014

Surviving without the internet

Hello everyone,

When I am writing this, the internet is down. Now, there is nothing more frustrating than being unable to get onto the internet when you are not able to. Internet being readily available is something that is just accepted in society today, and if many people don’t have access to internet then they don’t know what to do with themselves.

It is sad how little ‘switch off’ time most of us have. If we aren’t glued to our computers, tablets or laptops, then it’s our phones, or a TV. We are constantly glued to screens, and the internet is an integral part of this. Even my university work suffers from this, as most of my essays are handed in online. And many of my readings are shown online. Even when I am not actually using the internet, I normally I am logged onto Facebook or some other social networking site.

What would happen to the world if one day, the internet just stopped working. There was no internet anywhere in the world, and we had no idea when it was coming back. This sounds a bit like the start of an apocalypse film doesn’t it. How would the people react to losing the internet? Children would be crying because they couldn’t get to the next level of Angry Birds or Candy Crush? There would be riots and chaos in the streets as people slowly went mad because they were unable to load Twitter. You’re laughing at this now, but think about it? How do you react when the internet is down? You get frustrated, irritable, and are likely to lash out. I personally feel like smashing up my computer (and often pretend to do just that) when I can’t get internet signal. Imagine that on a global scale. How would the government deal with this problem? How would people contact people? Would it be like that movie ‘The Purge’ when anarchy reigns because all crime is legal for one night only? Or would we return to a time before the internet, when we would chat to one another face to face, telephone calls would be the communication of choice and in order to watch a movie you had to actually buy it in a shop? I’m not sure which way humanity would go.

When the wifi signal went down for a couple of hours the other day in the dorms, I was ‘relatively’ calm about it, and went to do some studying and reading until I could get back online again. However, when I had exhausted my reading and bookwork, I began to get frustrated again. I had work to do for an online course (so no internet meant no work and pretty much no course) and being unable to get to the internet was putting a drain on my time that I felt could be put to better use.

We, as humans, have never been so reliant on one of our inventions for societal interactions and for finding information ever before. Having no wifi signal is a bit like there being a power cut, and having to sit in and play board-games with the family all night. We hate it at first, but if we don’t have it for a prolonged period of time, then we revert back to what we were before and adapt. We don’t always need to be plugged in, sometimes it is nice just to be completely cut off for a while. We talk about the power of the internet, but what about the power of humanity? We don’t need the internet to lean on, we can stand upright by ourselves. Go on, try it. For one day, just don’t use the internet. No Facebook, no Twitter, no Instagram, no BBC News, nothing. Just complete data silence. See what you can do without the power of the internet.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Writer's Block

Hello Everyone,

This week has been really productive for me, mostly for school work. Clearly not for my blogging as I am writing about having a productive week. I apologise for that, I have some really great posts in progress, I just need to try and write them. However, at the moment I am having a bit of a problem. I have writer's block. No matter when I sit down to write something, no matter what the subject is, I have a bit of trouble managing to put words on a page. I want to write more about my time in America, but I don't want to bore you with all the details of my day to day life. And a lot of it is boring, I kid you not. It is me going to class, and having meals, and doing homework, and all the other boring things like that. So inspiration is hard to come by. I have a few things planned in the next week or so, but apart from that, I am being a bit boring. The only problem with having lots of homework and reading to do is that by the time I sit down to blog or write, it's the last thing I want to do. So I am sorry guys.

Somethings that happened this week:

I went to my second American football game. I enjoyed it slightly more than the first one, as I had some idea about what was going on, but it was really cold (which is like normal for Scotland), so that distracted me a lot. I was wearing short dungarees and a tank top with converse, and it was cold!

I signed up to do some volunteering with GEO (Global Education Office) in UNM. This is essentially where I make presentations and talk to people about studying abroad, and why they should go. If I do 10 hours by the end of the semester, I get a certificate.

I went to a new exercise class, and it just about kills me. So of course I love it. The teacher is amazing, and she really pushes us to get better. It is called a core class, but it combines aerobic exercises with core strengthening. So the next day (and the day after that) you hurt. A lot. It is similar to circuits, but more dance-y. There are some cool songs and things. I love it.

That's pretty much it.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Letters From America: Monthly Update

Hello Everyone, 

I have been in the USA for a month now, and I have been found some things that I have been missing from home, and some things I have been enjoying. So here is my lists. 

Things I am missing:

Chocolate. Specifically Dairy Milk and Galaxy. They do not sell it here, and when I drink a cup of tea at night, all I want is a couple of squares of it.

A kettle and a teapot. Tea made in the microwave is not the same, and making tea in a cup never tastes as nice as it does from a teapot.

Crisps. A proper Scottish packet of crisps, filled with so much vinegar and salt that your mouth starts to water and you begin to sweat a little bit just thinking of it. At home I could devour a share pack of them by myself and not even blink. I haven’t quite found a replacement for Chipsticks here yet.

Irn Bru. I don’t drink it that often, but it is a comforting sight to be able to go into the shops and see it there in the drinks aisle. Another thing I am missing, but not as much is Diet Coke. The dining hall does not serve it, they serve Pepsi instead. As someone who can tell the difference between full fat and diet, a similar drink is just not going to cut it.

Shopping. As I have weight restrictions on my suitcase, there is a limit to the amount of stuff I can bring back. Although shipping them back is an option, it does cost, so I will need to be sparing with my presents and souvenirs. As one of my main favourite things to buy are clothes and books, they aren’t entirely a great option for flying with. Although there are some essentials that I will need to purchase while I am here.

Drinking. Being able to meet up with your friends for a few drinks in a bar.  I don’t do it that often, but I quite like to have the option.

The nightlife. Coming from Glasgow and Aberdeen, you do get used to there being more than three nightclubs in the city. In a city as big as Albuquerque you would think that there would be tons of nightclubs, but there are only three mediocre ones (apparently).

The words. Words like aye, naw, wee, jumper, trainers, memory stick, t-shirts, tops, hoodies, sweater, trackies, trousers, lift, shopping centre, jumpsuit, rubber, loo. I miss being able to just say them and people knowing what I mean. No funny looks, and awkwardly correcting myself because I have said something wrong.

Slippers and dressing gown. I didn’t bring a pair of my booty slippers from home, and my feet don’t really like it. Another thing that I miss is my bright red dressing gown (although many others may not miss the sight of me in it). It was just great for cosying up at my desk to watch a movie, and it covered my legs. 

Being able to shop for shoes in the adult section. Now, I know I am on the borderline size for adult and children’s shoes in the UK, but there are lots of shops that sell shoes in a smaller size for adults (mostly the department stores like Debenhams, House of Fraser and TK Maxx). In the USA, I am firmly in the children’s section and there is no way around it. So no new heels for me.

Family and friends. This is pretty clich├ęd but true. I miss being able to call them whenever I wanted and being able to pop home for the weekend. Skyping is great, but it’s not the same as seeing them face to face. Mostly I miss hugs from the people I love the most. I miss my friends in Aberdeen, and our kitchen chats, and nights sitting on YouTube showing each other the music we love, googling our homes, and looking up attractive men.  Generally being girls having a girly night. 

Things I am enjoying:

The heat. I am loving the hot weather and being able to go out without a coat. Conversely I am looking forward to when it does get cold here and being able to compare it to cold in Britain.

Meeting all the new people. Everyone is really friendly, especially the students and it is just lovely to see. The people in Britain are friendly, but mostly just leave you to do your own thing. Passing someone in the corridor and having a conversation about your day is something I am still trying to factor into my journey times.

The views and the sky. Everything is so picturesque, and I don’t feel like I can take enough pictures to capture everything. My phone’s memory card is continuously close to being full, which I need to do something about.

The classes. Although there is a lot of reading, I am really enjoying my classes. They are taught differently to classes back at home, and there is a lot more of an emphasis on remembering facts rather than on essay writing (I haven’t quite decided if this is good or not). There also is less of an emphasis (especially in the English classes) on your opinion of things. At home you can have your own opinion, but it had to be backed up with someone else’s. It also couldn’t overtly say what your opinion was, but it had to be very neutral and unbiased. 

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Letters From America: A Couple of Bad Days

Hello Everyone, 

I've had a couple of bad days, and those of you who know me know when this happens, I just need to have a little rant to someone who understands. Now, I can vent to people over in the States, but they aren't going to quite 'get' what I am annoyed at. This is one of the things that I really need to rant about. 

Since I got here, most people have been very nice and interested in where I am from, or just accept it about me.It is just some ignorant people that have been getting on my nerves, the majority of the people I have met here have been very enthusiastic about Scotland, and seem to know a bit about it, or are interested. They will ask pertinent questions, which I am happy to answer, and although they are normally repetitive, I can deal with it. I will deal with my answers to these questions later, but first I am going to chat about something else. 

I am Scottish, okay? I study in Aberdeen, and I was born in Glasgow. But, although I am from another country, and although it is far away from the USA, we are not completely cut off from the world. In fact, we do have many things that you do not get in the USA, just as the USA has some things that we do not. However, I resent being asked if we have Google where I am from, McDonald's, Facebook, swearing (where do you think the English language comes from, Yanks?), or even a legal system. Yes, we do, the internet is not solely the property of the USA, and our legal systems are one the most celebrated mixed systems in the world. We do not 'simply box it out' as some people seem to think. I also do not feel the need to pledge my allegiance to the Queen at every possible moment either, and no, she is not very powerful in any real sense of the word. She is a figurehead who brings in a lot of tourism. 

Some questions I get asked frequently:

Why did you come to UNM? 
It is the only place that I got an offer from is the simple answer. However, there is a little bit more to it. I apply through my school, you choose up to five schools, and then after your exam results, you will get an offer to apply for one of them. Only ONE of them. This is because there are limited spaces to get on the exchange programme, so you can only get ONE offer. 

What's Scotland like?
Compared to Albuquerque, very cold and wet. It is very green as well. Where I am from the buildings are red and grey, especially in my area, where a lot of buildings were build with red sandstone. Aberdeen in very grey, due to the fact that there is a lot of granite. There is more to say on that matter, but I will stop there. 

Do you wear a kilt?
First of all, I'm a girl, and girls don't wear kilts. Second of all, no, we do not walk around in kilts on an everyday basis (we don't paint our faces blue and shout 'FREEDOM' everywhere we go either, but that's another matter). Kilts are saved for special occasions like weddings, graduations, and ceilidhs (a dance where we dance the traditional Scottish Country Dances). 

Do you play the bagpipes? Do you own a set of bagpipes? Do you know anyone who does?
No, no, and yes I do. It is not a skill that you are born with instinctively if you are from Scotland. Like every musical instrument, it must be learned and practiced in order to be played with any kind of skill. Not everyone can do it. I know a few people who can play the pipes, but not that many really. 

Okay guys, rant over. I hope you aren't too annoyed with me. I just needed to let off some steam, and I am trying to be committed to sharing everything about my year abroad on here, good and bad. My next post will be a lot happier, I promise.